Nikon D850 Review - Photography Life (2023)

Perhaps one of the most anticipated camera releases of 2017 has been the D810 successor, the Nikon D850. Nikon’s high-resolution camera body shook up the industry once again, this time with a strong punch, making the Nikon D850 the most versatile DSLR on the market.

Thanks to its 45.7 MP sensor with a native ISO sensitivity range of 64-25,600, upgraded 153-point autofocus system, advanced 181,000-pixel RGB metering system, 7 fps continuous shooting speed that can be bumped up to 9 fps with a battery grip, a fully weather-sealed construction and a bunch of other hardware and software upgrades, Nikon managed to pull out a camera that can satisfy every photography need – from landscapes and architecture to sports and wildlife. In this review, I will be assessing the camera from many different angles and comparing it to its predecessor, as well as its primary competition.

First, let’s go over the camera’s technical specifications and compare them side by side with the predecessors, the Nikon D810 and the D800 / D800E.

(Video) Why I Bought a NIKON D850 In 2022 | On Location Landscape Photography

Nikon D850 Specifications

  • Sensor: 45.7 MP FX BSI Sensor, 4.35µ pixel size
  • Sensor Size: 35.9 x 23.9mm
  • Resolution: 8256 x 5504
  • Native ISO Sensitivity: 64-25,600
  • Boost Low ISO Sensitivity: 32
  • Boost High ISO Sensitivity: 51,200-102,400
  • RAW Formats: 45.7 MP (Full Size), 25.6 MP (Medium Size / mRAW), 11.4 MP (Small Size / sRAW)
  • mRAW / sRAW File Support: 12-bit lossless compressed
  • Processor: EXPEED 5
  • Metering System: 181,000-pixel RGB Meter
  • Dust Reduction: Yes
  • Weather Sealing/Protection: Yes
  • Body Build: Full Magnesium Alloy
  • Shutter: 1/8000 – 30 seconds
  • Shutter Durability: 200,000 cycles, self-diagnostic shutter
  • Storage: 1x XQD slot and 1x SD slot (UHS-II compatible)
  • Viewfinder Coverage: 100%
  • Viewfinder Magnification: 0.75x
  • Speed: 7 fps, 9 fps with optional MB-D18 battery grip
  • Built-in Flash: No
  • Autofocus System: Multi-CAM 20K AF sensor
  • AF Sensitivity: -4 EV at the center point
  • AF Detection: Up to f/8 with 15 focus points
  • LCD Screen: touch-enabled 3.2 inch diagonal tilting LCD with 2,359K dots
  • Movie Modes: 4K UHD @ 30 fps max
  • Slow Motion HD Video: Yes
  • Movie Exposure Control: Full
  • Movie Output: MOV, MP4
  • Time Lapse: 4K and 8K Timelapse
  • In-Camera HDR Capability: Yes
  • GPS: Not built-in, requires GP-1 GPS unit
  • WiFi: Built-in
  • Illuminated Buttons: Yes
  • Focus Stacking Feature: Yes
  • Focus Peaking for Stills and Video: Yes
  • Wireless Radio Flash Control: Yes
  • Silent Photography Mode in Live View: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Built-in
  • Battery Type: EN-EN15a
  • Battery Life: 1840 shots (CIPA)
  • USB Standard: 3.0
  • Weight: 915g
  • Dimensions: 146 x 124 x 79mm
  • Price: $3,299.95 MSRP

A detailed list of camera specifications is available at

A quick glance at the above specifications reveals that the Nikon D850 differs quite a bit compared to the previous generation D810 and D800 / D800E cameras, whether it comes to sensor technology, autofocus or other camera features. Below is a detailed comparison of the four cameras:

Nikon D850 vs D810 vs D800 / D800E Comparison

Camera FeatureNikon D850Nikon D810Nikon D800 / D800E
Sensor Resolution45.7 MP36.3 MP36.3 MP
Low Pass FilterNoNoYes / No
Image Size8,256 x 5,5047,360 x 4,9127,360 x 4,912
Base ISOISO 64ISO 64ISO 100
Native ISO SensitivityISO 64-25,600ISO 64-12,800ISO 100-6,400
Boosted ISO SensitivityISO 32, 51,200, 102,400ISO 32, 25,600, 51,200ISO 50, 12,600, 25,600
sRAW / mRAW File SupportYes, BothYes, sRAW OnlyNo
Buffer: RAW 12-bit Lossless Compressed1704721
Buffer: RAW 14-bit Lossless Compressed512817
Viewfinder Coverage and Size100%, 0.75x100%, 0.70x100%, 0.70x
Built-in FlashNoYes, with flash commander modeYes, with flash commander mode
Storage Media1x XQD, 1x SD (UHS-II)1x CF, 1x SD (UHS-I)1x CF, 1x SD (UHS-I)
Continuous Shooting Speed7 FPS, 9 FPS with MB-D185 FPS, 6 FPS (DX), 7 FPS with MB-D124 FPS, 6 FPS (DX) with MB-D12
Electronic Front-curtain ShutterYesYesNo
Silent Photography Mode in Live ViewYesNoNo
Exposure Metering Sensor181,000-pixel RGB sensor91,000-pixel RGB sensor91,000-pixel RGB sensor
Highlight Weighted MeteringYesYesNo
Autofocus SystemMulti-CAM 20K AF sensorAdv. Multi-CAM 3500FX + Group Area AFAdv. Multi-CAM 3500FX
Dedicated AF EngineYesNoNo
Focus Points153, 99 cross-type51, 15 cross-type51, 15 cross-type
AF DetectionUp to f/8, 15 sensorsUp to f/8, 1 sensorUp to f/8, 1 sensor
AF EV Range-4 EV-2 EV-2 EV
Auto AF Fine TuneYesNoNo
Video Maximum Resolution3840×2160 (4K) @ 24p, 25p, 30p1920×1080 (1080p) @ 24p, 30p, 60p1920×1080 (1080p) @ 24p, 30p
Active D-Lightning for VideoYes at 1080pNoNo
Slow Motion HD VideoYes, up to 1920×1080 @ 30p x 4NoNo
Electronic VR for VideoYes, 1080pNoNo
Memory Card + External Recorder Simultaneous RecordingYesYesNo
Multi-Selector Exposure CompensationYesNoNo
Touch AF in Live ViewYesNoNo
Focus PeakingYes, Stills & VideoNoNo
Interval Timer Resolution4K, 8K1080p1080p
Interval Timer Exposure SmoothingYesYesNo
Timelapse Exposure SmoothingYesYesNo
Silent Timelapse ModeYes, Up to 9,999 framesNoNo
No. of Images in Timelapse / Int Timer9,9999,999999
Focus StackingYesNoNo
LCD Size3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD3.2″ diagonal TFT-LCD
LCD Resolution2,359,000 dots1,229,000 dots921,000 dots
Tilting LCDYesNoNo
Touch-Enabled LCDYesNoNo
In-Camera Batch RAW ProcessingYesNoNo
Button IlluminationYesNoNo
Wi-FiYesEye-Fi Compatible, WT-4aEye-Fi Compatible, WT-4a
BatteryEN-EL15a Lithium-ion BatteryEN-EL15 Lithium-ion BatteryEN-EL15 Lithium-ion Battery
Battery Life1,840 shots (CIPA)1,200 shots (CIPA)900 shots (CIPA)
Weight (Body Only)915g880g900g
Dimensions146 x 124 x 78.5mm146 x 123 x 81.5mm144.78 × 121.92 × 81.28mm
MSRP Price$3,299$3,299$2,999 / $3,299

Please note that the above table primarily shows differences in specifications between the cameras. For a more complete list of all camera specifications, please see my Nikon D850 vs D810 vs D800 / D800E comparison article.

(Video) Nikon D850 Review: Best Camera Ever?

Unlike the Nikon D810 that was mostly an incremental update to the D800 / D800E, Nikon added significant changes to the D850, as the above table demonstrates. In fact, if one were to look at all the changes the Nikon D850 offers, it could be considered as a whole different camera. First of all, the sensor on the D850 is completely different not just in terms of resolution (45.7 MP vs 36.3 MP), but also in terms of sensor technology – the D850 incorporates Nikon’s first-ever back-illuminated BSI CMOS sensor, which delivers superior image quality when compared to traditional CMOS sensors we have seen in the past.

Instead of going for a Sony-developed sensor, Nikon decided to design the sensor for the D850 on its own and have it produced by a different manufacturer, as it has done a number of times in the past in cameras like Nikon D3 and D700. When it comes to resolution, it is not a huge improvement – roughly 25% increase in overall resolution, which actually translates to just a 12% increase in linear resolution. However, it is still a meaningful increase in resolution that provides even more opportunities for making larger prints and allowing for extra cropping options for those who want to get closer to action. Nikon kept the base ISO of the camera the same at ISO 64 as on the D810, providing superb dynamic range. At the same time, the native ISO sensitivity range has been pushed from 64-12,800 to 64-25,600, with boosted ISO sensitivity getting all the way to ISO 102,400. In addition to these sensor improvements, Nikon also provided an mRAW option on the D850 in addition to the sRAW option that we have previously seen on the D810 (notes on the mRAW / sRAW options and their performance differences when compared to the D810 can be found in the next pages of this review).

Second, Nikon was able to bring the superb Multi-CAM 20K autofocus system with a total of 153 focus points (99 of which are cross-type) from the Nikon D5 / D500 cameras to the D850, delivering superior autofocus performance, especially when coupled with the latest generation EXPEED 5 processor. The 15 focus points around the center of the camera are sensitive to f/8 maximum aperture, which means that you can attach a 2x teleconverter to an f/4 lens (which results in f/8 maximum aperture) and still be able to easily acquire focus on targets. The camera is also sensitive down to -4 EV, allowing the autofocus system to function even in extremely low-light conditions. It is important to note that the Nikon D810 was sensitive down to -2 EV, so there are two stops of improvement on the D850 over its predecessor.

Additionally, the camera’s outer focus points are able to function at -3 EV, which is better than what the Nikon D810 could do in the middle of the frame! The camera buffer has also seen a significant upgrade – the D850 can shoot a total of 170 RAW images in 12-bit lossless compressed format and a total of 51 RAW images in 14-bit lossless compressed format. That’s a huge change when compared to the Nikon D810’s buffer that was limited to 47 and 28 RAW images, consecutively. Coupled with an amazing 7 fps shooting speed that can be bumped to 9 fps with the MB-D18 battery pack and D5 battery, one can get quite a bit of continuous shooting time without running out of the buffer – and that’s when shooting full-size 45.7 MP RAW images! In order to be able to deliver such speeds, Nikon had to go for more robust storage than CompactFlash – similar to the D5 and the D500, the Nikon D850 now also standardizes on the XQXD memory card format. As a result, the D850 has one XQD and one UHS-II compatible SD card slots. The new 181,000-pixel RGB metering sensor further boosts the autofocus capabilities of the camera, especially when shooting in Auto-Area and 3D-Tracking modes.

(Video) Nikon D850 for Wildlife and Photography | REVIEW one year later

Third, the Nikon D850 is finally able to take full advantage of the whole image sensor when shooting 4K, something no other Nikon DSLR has been able to do in the past. The camera can shoot up to 30 fps in 4K, as well as up to 60 fps in HD. Nikon also added a new MP4 video file format in addition to MOV format and added a bunch of video-specific features such as Active D-Lighting, electronic VR, focus peaking and more. The D850 is also able to shoot slow-motion HD video, up to full HD @ 30p x 4.

Fourth, Nikon completely reworked the D850 ergonomically, making it resemble the D500 rather than the D810. The camera now has a dedicated joystick and lacks a built-in flash. In addition, the viewfinder size has seen a dramatic increase – it went from 0.70x on the D810 to 0.75x on the D850. While the LCD screen size stayed the same at 3.2″ inches, Nikon completely changed the LCD features. The resolution of the LCD screen has been almost doubled at 2.359 million dots and it is finally a tilting, touch-enabled LCD, something many photographers have been waiting to see on the D8x0-series cameras. Just like the Nikon D500, the D850 also gains button illumination, which will make it easier to see all the camera buttons when shooting in low-light conditions. Other cosmetic and button changes are highlighted on the next page of this review.

Fifth, the Nikon D850 now comes with a more efficient EN-EL15a battery that extends the battery life of the camera to 1,840 shots – a rather significant upgrade when compared to 1,200 shot limit on the D810 and 900 shot limit on the D800 / D800E. The nice thing is, one can continue to use the older EN-EL15 batteries with chargers on the D850, although they won’t yield as many shots in comparison.

Lastly, Nikon pushed a boatload of firmware changes to the D850 when compared to the D810. The auto AF fine-tune feature that allows for easy calibration of lenses has been migrated from the D500 / D5 cameras, which is certainly nice to have. In addition to the Electronic front curtain shutter, there is now an option to shoot silently via live view, which is a great feature (although one that must be used with care when shooting fast moving subjects). It is now possible to use focus peaking in live view when shooting stills and Nikon heavily boosted the options to shoot time-lapses – it is now possible to shoot 4K and 8K time-lapses with exposure smoothing. A brand new focus stacking feature that is currently unique to the D850 is discussed in a lot of detail in the next pages of this review. That one is going to make many landscape and macro photographers happy, since it automates the focus stacking process when shooting with AF lenses. As expected, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth options are also added, although Nikon continues to omit a built-in GPS, which is unfortunate.

(Video) Nikon D850 Long Term Review + Photo & Video Samples

As you can see, the number of improvements and new features is fairly long, and I have not covered them all. If you would like to see a complete list of changes, please see my “Everything you need to know about the Nikon D850” article.

Let’s now go over the camera in more detail. Please select the next page below.

Table of Contents

(Video) WHY I use a DSLR for Street Photography & How (Nikon D850)


1. Is the Nikon D850 still a good camera in 2021? Professional Photographer Review
2. Nikon D850: Best Wildlife Camera EVER?
(Tony & Chelsea Northrup)
3. Nikon D850 Review For Wildlife, Landscape, and Nature Photographers
(Steve Perry)
4. Nikon D850 1 YEAR REVIEW | My FAVORITE Portraits Camera
(Ben and Pamela Lingle)
5. "Mastering Nikon D850 Custom Menu Settings for capturing wildlife photos: A Step-by-Step Guide"
(Wildlife Trails)
6. NIKON D850 | 1 YEAR REVIEW | The Pros and Cons?
(James Brew)
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